Legal action is being pursued against the Government agency responsible for the health of the river Wye.

Campaigning charity River Action yesterday (March 14) applied a the High Court for judicial review against the Environment Agency (EA) for failing to apply its own farming rules for water to the river area.

Phosphate pollution, chiefly from chicken and other livestock manure spread on farmland, causes algal blooms that suffocate the Wye’s plants and wildlife.

River Action claims the EA is “complicit” in this, and is also in breach of habitats regulations, as the river is not meeting its conservation status.


Its chairman and founder Charles Watson said:  “The severe ecological collapse of the iconic river Wye is one of the great environmental scandals of our times.

“This could have been seriously mitigated had the Environment Agency enforced existing environmental regulations to prevent the excess application of animal waste on land that was already oversaturated with nutrients.

“This unlawful conduct of the EA has to stop now.”


River Action is represented by Leigh Day solicitor Ricardo Gama, who said: “The Environment Agency is choosing to apply the rules in a way that is inconsistent with their own interpretation of how they are supposed to work, meaning manure is allowed to flow into our waterways with impunity.

“Our client hopes this claim will force the EA to reassess their approach and start applying the rules properly.”

Earlier this month, Herefordshire councillors unanimously backed a motion by Coun Elissa Swinglehurst, who chairs the Wye nutrient management board, to apply to the Government to back a byelaw giving the river Wye “rights”.

These are to include the right to flow, to be free from pollution, to perform essential ecosystem functions, to feed and be fed by sustainable aquifers, and to be protected from physical damage.

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